Poll: How many section hikers/thru-hikers carry a GPS and plot locations during your hike?

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  1. #21
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Just to clarify.... since we're specifically on the AT forum, we are talking about using a GPS on the AT itself, correct? Judging by the majority of "no" responses, I think this is the case.

    One has to try really, really hard to get lost along the AT corridor, though admittedly I did get off the trail accidentally in Connecticut, though it was easy to get back on.

    I realize it is fun to record tracks though, and I do so on other trails all the time, and store them in a growing library. Just can't justify burning precious battery power on the AT though.

    I have a fairly new model Garmin (30-something) that is now basically useless, because my cell phone keep just as accurate of a track. Might even be better. Basically, I no longer see any need whatsoever for a standalone GPS unit. I suspect they will be obsolete very soon, except for high end units for surveyors, military, etc.

  2. #22
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    Default Guthook App Is the Best

    I download Guthook for my upcoming trip and its really THE BOMB!
    How far to water from HERE? the next tent site, shelter, grocery, motel, etc. all at your fingertips!!! Is that motel any good? Are there any recent reports of bears at xyz shelter? Shows your EXACT location on the AT! Its all fantastic!

  3. #23
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    Not on the AT, but I'm carrying my smartphone and using its GPS capability whenever I'm out, be it a local hike dayhike, an urban wandering, a multiday mountain adventure or a multi-week desert hike.
    Just getting my position and a short look at he map every now and then, the battery would last for 5-10 days. When tracking, it will run for about 3 days. Including the 10.000mAh Anker, it will last me for about 2 weeks of tracking.
    Honestly, I've never been out and away from civilisation for longer than this.
    And yes, the smartphone GPS is as accurate as a Garmin, but way better in ergonomy.

  4. #24
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    maps and compasses will be obsolete soon to since every smart phone has a fail proof version.....

    jokes aside, it really isn't hard to get lost or turned around on the AT stepping off trail in certain places. I was in ME getting near the end of the day looking for a stealth spot. I saw a clearing so I put my bag down on trail and stepped off no more then 15-20' to check out the spot. It was only for a minute but I had a minor freak out moment not able to see my bag and totally mixed up on direction. Look at what happened to Inchworm, it could happen when you least expect it... going off trail to the point where you can't see it is common for digging a cat hole along the trail. I got totally turned around that way in Connecticut (not on the AT). I walked 20-30 feet when done and realized it was the wrong way so I said "alright, I'm just gonna go back where I went to the bathroom and 'regain my bearings'"..... well I couldn't even walk back and find where I just went to the bathroom. Ended up walking in different directions yelling for my buddy who eventually heard...

    Now that was close to civilization but it's an example and was a good lesson. I would of found my way out on my own but how far from camp? and then my buddy wouldn't have a clue... sure you can say I'm an idiot but stuff happens - and now I take every precaution I could to make sure that doesn't happen again. I even added a little reel of fishing line to my gear - haven't used it yet but I got the idea from someone in ME (tie to tree close to trail then reel yourself back in).
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  5. #25

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    Quote Originally Posted by LazyLightning View Post
    maps and compasses will be obsolete soon to since every smart phone has a fail proof version.....

    jokes aside, it really isn't hard to get lost or turned around on the AT stepping off trail in certain places. I was in ME getting near the end of the day looking for a stealth spot. I saw a clearing so I put my bag down on trail and stepped off no more then 15-20' to check out the spot. It was only for a minute but I had a minor freak out moment not able to see my bag and totally mixed up on direction. Look at what happened to Inchworm, it could happen when you least expect it... going off trail to the point where you can't see it is common for digging a cat hole along the trail. I got totally turned around that way in Connecticut (not on the AT). I walked 20-30 feet when done and realized it was the wrong way so I said "alright, I'm just gonna go back where I went to the bathroom and 'regain my bearings'"..... well I couldn't even walk back and find where I just went to the bathroom. Ended up walking in different directions yelling for my buddy who eventually heard...

    Now that was close to civilization but it's an example and was a good lesson. I would of found my way out on my own but how far from camp? and then my buddy wouldn't have a clue... sure you can say I'm an idiot but stuff happens - and now I take every precaution I could to make sure that doesn't happen again. I even added a little reel of fishing line to my gear - haven't used it yet but I got the idea from someone in ME (tie to tree close to trail then reel yourself back in).
    What you describe is a pretty common way people get into trouble in wilderness areas. A small button compass mounted on one of your pack straps can really come in handy when going off trail for short distances. You don't need to know magnetic declination for your area and you don't need a graduated dial like a more sophisticated compass will have in either mils or degrees, you just shoot a general azimuth from the trail to a sizeable landmark you can see from the trail. Even if terrain and vegetation wont let you travel to the landmark in a straight line, once you get to the landmark you shoot a reverse azimuth back the direction you came and travel back that direction to find the trail. If you're going 300 feet or less to dig a cat hole the button compass will be plenty accurate as you only need a general sense of direction. Especially helpful in full snow cover, dense vegetation or any terrain where everything looks the same. A compass, even the "cracker jack" version, can be a useful navigation tool even without a map.

  6. #26
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    I'm always carrying a compass (and a good Swiss one) in my emergency pack, but then it is pretty much useless if you don't have a decent map of the area, plus you roughly know where you are.
    Next, you need to have a clear view of a decent landmark, and you need to be able to identify this landmark and find it on the map - so many things you'd need to handle well.
    If one is not trained well working with map and compass, its pretty much useless.

    I found that knowing the time and having a good view on the sun can give you the bearing in the same accuracy (or inaccuracy) as any button compass may do.
    An analog wrist watch might help, but you can draw one indicating the given time on a slice of paper too.

    And then, if you are clever enough to get the bearing of the direction of your bathroom run, you well might be clever enough to find back to the trail as well.

  7. #27

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    I run with a GPS watch and occasionally use it to record hikes, though not for navigational purposes. On the AT in the local area I'll frequently travel without a map because it's familiar. Further out or on less common trails I'll have either an official map or something I threw together in CalTopo and exported to Avenza. The CalTopo site makes it easy to generate a map specific to where you are and mark it up with useful annotations. The result can be easily printed or electronically shared to others, and by importing to Avenza you can navigate directly on the digital map with your phone. Incredibly convenient, especially in poor visibility.

    Regardless of how good the electronic navigation options get, however - there's always a traditional compass on standby in the pack.

  8. #28
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    I always carry my smartphone ... and paper maps. Funny how some seem to think it's either/or.

    On the AT and JMT, it was Guthook. On most others, it's Gaia GPS ... and I do track myself on those.
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  9. #29

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    I still use an older Garmin GPS. I like to see the elevation gain/loss at the end of the day, and it can be useful for knowing where to find springs, distances to shelters, answering all sorts of navigation questions (how fast are we going, etc..).

  10. #30

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    I always carry a GPS because I love having the data, but there is an important distinction: I carry a GPS to record where I have been, and not to determine where I am going. I also love maps and use Guthook on AT sections that aren't near me. I maintain my entire hiking library back to 2008 on Garmin's free Basecamp software and, like another poster stated, it is a bummer when a hike gets lost - I have to go out and re-hike so I have those miles in my library. I keep the data every time I go out, such as the eight+ times I've done the Three Ridges loop. I can compare times and note changes to trail routes. I can advise fellow hike leaders on anticipated hike times, along with elevations and distances (and even drive times, if I have that data). When the PATC updated all their trail maps to confirm the accuracy of their maps' trail routes via GPS, I helped with that and learned a lot about the process. A phone is not as accurate and the battery dies too quickly. I can't ever see eliminating my GPS receiver from my "essentials" when hiking. I also always carry a compass, but have never had to use it because it isn't that hard to get your bearings in the Appalachians.

  11. #31
    Registered User Crossup's Avatar
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    I carry a Garmin 605 strictly for off AT use, as in when I depart from the trail beyond visual reference. For example I like to find downed trees to use as a toilet seat, when there are none near and the urge is strong, I will bushwhack to find one. Thats when the 605 gets fired up to record my track so if my seat of the pants navigation fails to bring me back to the trail I have a fall back. Its a point of pride that I always try to not reference it and so far my sense of direction and ability to retrace my path have not failed me but IF it does I'm NOT going to be lost.

    It would also come in handy if I should run out of juice for my cell phone and wanted to do an unscheduled trip to town etc as my maps on it do show stores etc.

  12. #32
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    Does anybody use Osmand?

  13. #33
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    I own an eTrex but rarely carry it anymore. It's just easier & lighter to use my phone and a backup charger. I've tried several apps (Waypoint Navigator, GaiaGPS, etc) but my favorite is still Avenza Maps. I like tracking my mileage and pace, mapping my path, checking my progress toward camp, and taking waypoints for interesting sightings or features. It has also come in handy for navigating when the trail is not well-marked (in terms of figuring out which trail branch is the correct way forward).

  14. #34
    Registered User greentick's Avatar
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    I carry a map (and know how to use it! lol)
    nous défions

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